Friday, January 24, 2014

Year of the Tattoo

January 24th 2014

Simon and Schuster put my book up on for giveaway two days ago. There are 25 copies and 350 entries so far. So join up! You never know. Winners are selected randomly. Two reviews so far: the first lamented how different my book was from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander (some good soul responded, "So what?") The second was fairer, but neither liked the book and gave me only three stars out of five. I think I will limp now into my office and commit literary hari-kari. Eloi eloi lama sabachthani? (Well, I'm an artist with a flair for the dramatic!)  I know it is too early to tell how this thing is all going to come out in the wash, but this is not what I was anticipating. I sort of thought that trumpets would sound and people would be bowing down to kiss the street I walk upon (ditto.)

Maybe this isn't the right thing to be posting on a site that is supposed to be promoting my book, but I set out to log the process, and perhaps this is part of the process: I shared the glory of getting a publisher, of being assigned a publicist, all those things that had me hopping for joy. But there is no joy right now. There is self doubt and a clutching feeling in my chest. There are tears and vows that I will never write another word. I will come out of it. Human buoyancy predicts that I will bob back up on the surface after a period of time.

On to other things. 2014 being a big year (both for me and Scotland), I decided to do something radical and get a tattoo. My ancestors in Scotland were called "picti" by the marauding Roman army when they first encountered them on the Scottish border. "Picti" means "the painted ones," so we can assume they were fairly well tattooed. In my book set in the time of the Picts, nearly everyone is tattooed, so I thought I should reach back into my DNA and pull up a pictish symbol to adorn my arm. This is what I came up with:

On the inside of my forearm. I have never in my life done anything like this. Call it a mid-life crisis. Call it a move that floored the people who know me. I didn't even really know how to go about it. But the place I picked should have been a warning: The Dingy Cupboard. I ask you. I arrived at the appointed time and passed a woman outside drawing heavily on a cigarette. "Please make that not the tattoo artist," I prayed as I went inside. But she was. I had even researched her: I knew she had a degree in art, but nothing was said about nicotine addiction. She walked in after a while smelling of cigarettes and booze and a little jittery, I thought. I showed her my picture of the above symbol.
"Can you do this?" I asked.
She assured me she could. We decided on the place on my arm she would draw the tattoo, and then she asked to be excused for a quick smoke. I could have run then. I could have called the whole thing off when she came back in and had me sit in the seat and said, "You can moan, you can bitch and you can whine. But don't fucking move."
Believe me, I didn't move. The tattoo needle painted on the tattoo like a sewing machine running up a hem - though more slowly. More agonizingly. She was wiping away black ink and getting her face very close to her work. Every so often I stole a glance, and damn if it wasn't coming together just as I imagined. I had initially asked for a coloured-in tattoo, but once she had made the outline of the sign in black ink and filled in the swirls and inner design, I was thinking it looked just about right the way it was. My artist lady told me to take a few minutes to think about it, while she went outside for a fag. I strode up and down in the dingy cupboard looking at my arm in the mirror, thinking I was a pretty cool-looking middle-aged women and wondering how my children were going to react.
"I'm going to stick with this," I told her when she came back in. Credit due - she did a great job. I am very pleased with my tattoo.
Which just goes to show you: sink or swim, things don't always turn out the way you expect them to. Not in the publishing world. Not even in the tattoo parlor.

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